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Peter Tosh Lights Up The Reggae University

Peter Tosh Lights Up The Reggae University

Peter Tosh Lights Up The Reggae University

By on - Photos by Rototom 2011 - 1 comment

The Life of Peter Tosh at Rototom Reggae University.

Peter Tosh at Reggae University - Roger Steffens

On the 8th day of the ROTOTOM reggae festival 2011 the eagerly anticipated homage to Peter Tosh was held at the Reggae University. Using his finely tuned presentation skills, the Wailers’ guru Roger Steffens brought the legendary Tosh to life for the large and appreciative audience – which included Rita Marley.

Steffens opened his presentation by warning listeners that ‘Peter Tosh must not be forgotten’. He can rest assured that this will not happen. And he can take much credit for the fact that it will not happen. To ensure that the show was far from a standard boring college lecture, it was built around 12 rare film clips of Tosh performing and being interviewed. Amongst the best of the clips shows Tosh giving of his very best on a version of Legalise It for U.S. television. Another (most unexpected) clip features him acting in a Brazilian soap opera! This format was complemented by a selection of anecdotes and insights, many of which allowed Steffens to bring the deceased Tosh to life for the audience. He also wisely used the expertise of reggae authors John Masouri and Colin Grant – both of whom addressed the University earlier in the evening - to add to his commentary on the aforementioned film clips.

Amongst the most humorous of his stories was Tosh’s telephone call to the New York police to report his stolen herb stock! Understandably this required the quick intervention of his assistant, who assured the police on their arrival at the hotel reception that the matter had been a complete misunderstanding!

Peter Tosh at Reggae University - Roger SteffensIn the heat of the homage it would be easy to forget that Peter Tosh was no saint. Though militant and aggressive, he was not a physically violent man. But being human, he did have his ‘blind spots’. For example, Steffens reminded the audience that (early Wailers’ coach) Joe Higgs had to take legal action against Tosh to get his rightful dues for the Steppin Razor composition. It was also revealed that some journalists adjudged Tosh to be insane and suitable for confinement in a mental institution! Whatever about that, Steffens correctly advised the audience that Tosh’s judgement was excellent on such matters as racism (e.g. rejecting big money offers to play in apartheid South Africa), equal rights, cannabis legalisation and refusing to accept Bunny Wailer’s invitation to open for him on a European tour.

Peter Tosh at Reggae University - Colin GrantOn the issue of the relationship between the 3 Wailers, it was notable that Colin Grant (who claims to ‘act the idiot’ to disarm people!) pointed out that the most common cause of conflict between Bob, Peter and Bunny related to matters of scripture! Contrary to the impression given in the Steppin Razor film (on Tosh), it was also reassuring to hear that though there had been some tension between these artists, Tosh was genuinely upset at the passing of his soul mate Bob. Notably Grant’s work on the Wailers reminds us that though Marley preached inner peace and serenity to the masses, he was so tortured by angst over his race that he actually used shoe polish to blacken his hair!

Peter Tosh at Reggae University - John MasouriJohn Masouri - whose new book on the life of Tosh is imminent - also advised the audience that Tosh had ‘the patience of a saint’ – which was especially evident in the face silly questions from ignorant interviewers. The author also insisted that Tosh’s work ‘mattered then and it really matters now’ (e.g. on matters of racism, nuclear war, Palestine). Entertaining the audience with fascinating insights into the artist’s life he concluded that Tosh’s assassination – which the deceased had a premonition of – was no murder, but a planned assassination.

Earlier in the day the University audience enjoyed a film on trombonist Rico Rodriguez, made by Spanish\Catalan trombonist Jep Jorba (Rico Rodriguez – The Legacy). The film, set in Barcelona, covers the artist’s life, where he tells us ‘suffering has been my constant companion’. Amongst the many treasures in this legacy is Rico’s contribution to the classic Special’s song A Message To You Rudy. For all lovers of a live brass section in reggae music this work is well worth seeing, though there will be many who would argue with Rico’s suggestion that ‘only Jamaicans can play the reggae’! It would also have been interesting to have gotten a reaction to his 2007 award for services to music at Buckingham Palace of an M.B.E. (Member of  the Order of the British Empire). Of course given Peter Tosh’s comment on Buckingham Palace it most unlikely he would ever have been invited inside the Palace gates!

Peter Tosh at Reggae University - Colin Grant

Closing the evening’s proceedings Steffens ran a short clip where he interviews Tosh in the wake of Marley’s passing. On the sensitive subject of who was the ‘new King of reggae’, Tosh advises that ‘they say I’m the new King of reggae, but that’s not right, because I’m not new’. Typically fluent Tosh! Steffens, Masouri, Grant (together with author Dave Katz, who chaired the session) have done their bit to ensure that - even if only in spirit and influence – it really is a case of ‘Long live the King’.

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Read comments (1)

Posted by Damon F on 02.26.2012
Peter Tosh, insane? Bull! They'd like to suggest that as he spoke the truth and cut to the bone. Most likely those who suggest such a thing heard his voice but didn't understand the meaning of his words.

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